Detailed Criminal Investigations Set For All At-Work Road Deaths
How you can help keep your staff safe on the roads
Its been confirmed that the police will now investigate at-work road deaths as if they were “murders” using the powers included in the new Corporate Manslaughter Act which came into force in April this year.
A forensic detective from Kent Police has said that following a death involving an at-work driver, the employer can expect an immediate and much more aggressive in-depth investigation to be mounted by the police. The situation will be considered as a criminal investigation, starting from the most serious offence of murder, working downwards.
Following an at-work road death, companies could see homes and offices raided, computers and documents seized and a thorough investigation of the companies policies, procedures and checks on areas ranging from vehicle maintenance to licence checking and drink and drug screening.
Fleets would appear to be fairly easy targets so as an employer, you must ensure that adequate journey planning procedures are in place within your company and that anyone driving for you is aware of this. Your company must have policies regarding the use of mobile phones, and hands free equipment, because from now on, this will be a significant part of any investigation.
Its claimed if a driver is using a phone whilst driving, his risk of causing a collision increases by 400% and that’s pretty much the same risk as if your employee was driving whilst over the drink drive limit and its for sure you wouldn’t knowingly let someone who is drunk drive one of your company cars would you? So why would you ignore the dangerous use of a phone – its fact, you can’t do that in future.
The police want to reduce the number of accidents involving drivers that have fallen asleep at the wheel because of fatigue and obviously, this is going to be a further area that will feature heavily in the investigation.
I know its tough, as you can’t be with your drivers all the time, but its about what’s reasonable and you need to be able to demonstrate to the investigating police that you’ve taken all every reasonable step to ensure your drivers are safe and comply with the law and below are just some suggestions:-
- Don’t ask drivers to meet a tight arrival deadline.
- Give your drivers instructions as to what to do if they feel tired at the wheel. Make sure they understand them.
- Don’t ask your drivers to work unreasonably long days, or work long hours in the office then drive any distance.
- Put policies & procedures in place regarding the use of mobile phones. Make sure your drivers read them and get them to sign to agree they will comply.
- Give clear guidance regarding your policy on drink driving and the use of drugs, (you may employ a 0% policy) but again, make sure the driver is aware and signs to confirm that
- Check both parts of a drivers licence frequently (you can lose a licence very quickly) I recommend at least annually, but every 3 or 6 months would be better
- Go out (as a matter of course) with each new driver that joins your company to judge their driving skills and if training is needed, get it done.
- Don’t ask drivers to use a vehicle that they are not familiar with. For example, If they have always driven a manual and you ask them to drive an automatic (even for one journey), make sure they are capable and if you want them to take something out in a van, are they experienced enough.
- If a driver is responsible for checking vehicles maintenance, ensure he knows the daily checks you require and that he knows that they are his responsibility. Also ensure he submits his vehicle for servicing or MOT at the correct intervals.
- Consider an overnight stay if a drivers already done a full days work. Don’t ask them to start a journey when they are already tired.
Everything is pretty much common sense really!
I guess the easy way, would be to perhaps have all this added to your company’s handbook, but perhaps that isn’t practical, but certainly, it wouldn’t cost a fortune to have a “drivers guide” printed up, it could be done using the office PC and provide places for drivers to sign acknowledging your policies and procedures and you could both have a copy and it would cost you pennies.
Why not start today, think it out a bit and think of all the dangers that could happen. Put them all into a easily understandable list and meet with each of your drivers, ask them to bring their licence (so you can check it) and then go through your requirements one by one and get the driver buy into the importance of this and to sign to say he understands. Whilst you’re together, get the driver to take you out for about 30mins with him driving and if training is needed, you will know and can arrange that and the entire meeting will take less than one hour! To me, that’s a dam good investment.
Looking at it from the other side, would you want to lose your best salesman “your business getter” because he’s had an accident? Well you can do lots to avoid this.
OK, this isn’t going to be a complete cure-all, but it would demonstrate to any investigating police officer that you have put rules in place, discussed them with each driver and they’ve signed to acknowledge that and also that you’ve checked their licence and even gone out in a vehicle with them to judge their driving skills.
Surely, if you’ve taken all these steps, and the worst does happen, any court is going to find it difficult to convict you.
One final point, times are hard and we are all struggling to get business, but we absolutely MUST ensure we don’t ask our drivers to burn the candle at both ends. If we knowingly expect a driver to work to tight deadlines, we are effectively leaving him with no option but to take risks, or speed to achieve them. If appointment times don’t allow your driver adequate time to get to them, that’s an obvious accident waiting to happen. Telling an employee “he must finish that job today, no matter how late he has to stay” then him crashing on the way home, well its 100% down to you as his employer. Sending someone on an early start training course some distance away, leaving him to drive back after a full days training, well you’re going to be responsible for that as well. We really shouldn’t ask a driver to do the late shift, finish at 10pm, then be on the road again at 6am, as that really does not leave time for adequate recovery or sleep, because you know what, if there is an accident, for sure, he’s going to blame it on you, because you pushed him too hard!
I guess you will figure this all out based on what suits your own individual company best, but it’s certain that if you do nothing and the worst happens, you could even end up in jail, after having lost your business.
If we can be any help or advice, (whilst we can’t give you any binding legal advice), please drop us an e-mail and at the very least, we can try and point you in the right direction. You don’t have to be a customer of ours and we won’t charge you anything for trying to help you, as we are all in this together after all, it could be my family or your family that’s in the car coming the other way.
If you found this useful, or interesting, look at the “DUTY OF CARE” article.